March 15, 1946, I, Ann (Annakutty) Muthukattil, was born into the large family of the late Chandy and Annamma Muthukattil as the fourth of eventually ten children: four boys and six girls. My siblings are: Joseph, Aleyamma (Sister Fabian), Mathew (late Father Mathew), Annakutty (Sister Ann), Chandy, Mary, Theyamma, Rosamma, Kuttiachan and Celine. Being the fourth child and the second girl, I had to help my elder sister and my mother with the household chores. My parents farmed for their living. My elder siblings and I helped our parents in agricultural fields and household duties.
We belonged to St. Mary’s parish Teekoy in Palai Diocese which has given the most religious women and men, including bishops, locally and to the mission territories in India and abroad. I completed my primary and high school at St. Mary’s School, Teekoy parish in the year 1966. The school and the church were about five kilometres away from home. Usually, the mornings were a rush time, preparing the younger ones to go to school as well as helping mother to prepare breakfast and lunch. All of us helped each other to finish up the household work. On weekends we worked on our farms.
My parents were devoted, God-fearing Catholics. My mother taught us the Christian prayers before we joined the school. My elder sister had a deep desire to go to the missions even though my family and relatives objected to it. My grandparents and our relatives wanted her to join a local congregation in Kerala. In spite of all the objections, my sister joined the mission in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. My second brother also followed her to Visakhapatnam in spite of the family pressure. My uncle, Reverend Father Cyriac Muthukattil who was a diocesan priest of Palai Diocese, helped my parents give permission to their children to go wherever they wanted to be. With the cooperation, support and encouragement of my priest uncle, my parents painfully allowed me to go to North India, against the decisions of the rest of the family.
Beginnings of my Vocation
While studying in Class VIII, I first felt the strong desire to go to the missions to live among the poor. This desire was strengthened and nourished by the activities of the Mission League and St. Mary’s Sodality. Jesus’ words kept coming to my heart: The harvest is plentiful and the labourers are few (Luke 10:2) and the words of Jesus from the cross, “I am thirsty” (John 19:28) touched my heart. So, I wanted to be a labourer in the vineyard of Jesus. When I expressed my desire to the vocation promoter of the Diocese of Palai, the priest gave me a booklet about the ‘Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’. Among the many vocation folders, the vocation promoter not only gave me the leaflet of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, but also asked me to write an application to them.
Sister Rita Puthenkalam and Sophia Kalapurakal had come to Kerala for recruiting. I met them at the Clarist Convent in Bharanaganam and immediately they accepted my application and gave me the list of things to purchase for travel. My father was not aware of the distance from Kerala to Patna Mission in Bihar. His greatest disappointment was sending me away too far. God’s ways are strange. My desire to be a missionary was fulfilled on June 10, 1967, when I said goodbye to my dear parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends. Along with eight other girls, I arrived in Mokama on June 14, 1967.
Nine of us began our candidacy on June 14, 1967. Sister Teresita Theruvankunnel, who travelled with us from Kerala, was our first candidate director. A few months later, Sister Teresita was transferred, and Sister Ann George Mukalel became the director of the candidates. Under the able-guidance of Sister Ann George, our group learnt English, Hindi, Church History and the history of our Congregation.
On September 8, 1968, twelve of us entered the pre-novitiate under the able leadership of Sister Patricia Mary (Pat) Kelley. It was the time immediately after Vatican Council II. Sister Patricia Mary, who was the director of both the pre-novices and novices, wanted to make drastic changes in formation. Hence, she divided our group into three. It was the most painful time in my religious life. Sisters Margaret Rodericks, Anne Marie Thayilchirayil and Ann George supported me in my struggles. I made my first vows on June 9, 1972, in Mokama, along with Sheela Palamoottil, Rani George, Sujita Palatty and Mary Vathalloor. Rani, Sujita and Mary Vathalloor left the Congregation as young Sisters.
After my first profession, I was appointed to Chatra to assist in the school. A year later, I was appointed as a catechetical Sister along with Sister Francine Moozhil in Sokho. Since there was a need for a Math teacher in Pushpa Vidyalaya, Sokho, I was asked to teach in the school there. The principal, Sister Sheela Palamoottil, and other Sisters realised my potential as a teacher and recommended me to the provincial for the teacher training course.
I began the primary teacher’s training in Hindi at Lohardaga with the Ursuline Sisters. I was the only student who was non-Hindi speaking in the class. I, also, never studied Sanskrit in school. I believed in the Providence of God and my missionary vocation helped me work hard to complete the training in 1976. The Sisters, teachers and my classmates were very understanding and supportive of me in everything. For me it was an enjoyable time being with the young girls and the loving Ursuline Sisters.
After the teacher’s training, I was appointed as a teacher at Pushpa Vidyalaya (now St. Mary’s), Sokho in June 1976, and as the principal in October, the same year. In the beginning, the community life was very accommodative. Sister Lucia Thuluvanickel was the coordinator, and other members were Sisters Gracy Thombrakudy, Sumita Edattu and Joyce Kalapurayil (the latter two discontinued membership). We worked well with Reverend Father Dan Rice, S.J. who was the parish priest. Slowly, Father Dan changed his approach in ministry. He wanted us to impart education in the villages under the trees. I was very much disappointed about the new changes brought about by Father Dan.
Sister Margaret Rodericks, then provincial, understood my situation. I was given an opportunity in 1979 to attend a four-month renewal course in Lucknow directed by Sister Marietta Saldanha, SCN. When I returned from the renewal, I volunteered to be one of the pioneers in Shahpur Mission, in a remote village in Bihar for one year. We stayed with a family and conducted informal education for children, youth and adults. One of the youth, the late Dev Lal, became a teacher in our formal school, and many others are in good government positions now.
I completed my intermediate studies at Ranchi University in 1981, as a distant education student, then I continued my studies for a three-year Bachelor of Arts at Jyoti Niwas College, Bangalore University.
From June 1984 to December 1986, I was appointed principal of Vimala Vidyalaya, Bakhtiarpur. Since I had a great desire to be among the poor, I opted for a four-month village exposure program in Kagaul.
From June 1987 to December 1993, I was the principal of Maria Vidyalaya in Khorimahua, an interior village of the Santhal Tribe. There was not much transportation facility at that time. Though it was a hard mission, we were fortunate to get funds from Misereor for a new school building. The new building was completed and blessed in 1992, with seven classrooms, an office and staff room. The parents were eager to educate their children, and we had many admissions. I hardly had the time to enjoy the fruit of my hard labour, s I was transferred in January 1994, to St. Dominic School, Sangsay, another remote village in the Himalayan Region in West Bengal. I was the first SCN principal of St. Dominic School. I took it up as a challenge to go up and down the hills to build up the school. With assistance from Luxemburg a beautiful school building was completed and blessed in 1997. Though it was difficult to say goodbye to the beautiful serene place of Sangsay, God was preparing me to serve the people of Botswana, Africa. With a heavy heart, I left Sangsay and became the principal of St. Xavier’s School, Mokama, from May 1998 to May 2000.
In the Golden Jubilee year of the India Mission – 1997, India Province desired to move beyond our peripheries to the African mission. My missionary zeal prompted me to volunteer for that mission, and I was chosen as one of the pioneers in 2000. Sister Sarita Manavalan and I reached Botswana on September 7, 2000. Sisters Angela Hicks and Patricia Huitt from the USA arrived on September 8, 2000, and Nalini Meachariyil joined us on September 13, 2000. The Diocese of Gaborone already had the place for our three-month language study at the Pastoral Centre, Kanamo.
In December 2000, then President and Vice president Sisters Maria Vincent Brocato and Shalini D’Souza visited us. The Passionist priests invited us to spend Christmas with them at Molopolole. On January 3, 2001, we departed for our missions in Kanye and Jawaneng. Sisters Sarita, Angela and Nalini were in Jawaneng and Pat Huitt and I in Kanye. The Jawaneng project for an orphanage did not materialise; so, the Sisters moved to Kanye in May 2001.
In 2002, I was appointed as a teacher in one of the high schools in Kanye for three years. In 2005, there was a need for an administrator for a pre-school in the newly-erected St. Mary’s Parish, Lobaste. From the very beginning, I built it up as one of the best pre-schools in the diocese. Over 200 students graduated from this pre-school by the year 2013, and have joined various formal schools. They are the best students in their schools.
Sister Pat Huitt returned to Nazareth, KY, in January 2014. Therefore, I was asked to carry on the pastoral ministry in Kanye. I carried on what Sister Pat had begun, such as the diocesan pastoral and the parish activities. I prepare children, youth and adults to receive the sacraments. On Sundays, I conduct para-liturgy services in the sub-stations of Kanye parish. I take Holy Communion to the sick and the elderly in their homes, as well as participate in funerals.
In 2022, I celebrated my Golden Jubilee. I had a celebration in Kanye, Botswana in September 2022, and I joined my entire group in Patna Province for an eight-day retreat and jubilee celebration in Mokama on October 5. My family celebrated my jubilee in parish Udayagiri, Kerala on November 5, 2022.
As I look at my religious vocation to minister as a missionary in India and Botswana, I am deeply grateful to my God, my SCN Family, my biological family and the entire world. Blessings outnumber the few thorns of my life. My deep faith in God and my prayer have led me to what I am today. I am grateful to all the Sisters and co-workers with whom I have had the opportunity to minister.
I ask for God’s continued blessings upon our Congregation. My prayer is that each one of us be the herald of goodness wherever we are ministering. May we live our charism to it its fullest and carry forward the great legacy handed down to us by Bishop David, Mother Catherine Spalding and our pioneers.
Ann Muthukattil, SCN
Written on December 9, 2022
Submitted by Malini Manjoly, SCN on Feb. 2, 2023
Interested in reading more Marie Menard Committee stories?
Click here: https://nazareth.org/tag/marie-menard/
How true it is, as you have mentioned, “blessings outnumber the few thorns in my life”, Those painful moments are only blessings in disguise. You are a blessing, Ann, and bring a lot of blessing to those whom you serve. Through your committed and selfless service, you touch many lives and bring them to Jesus. May you experience peace, grace and love of the Lord as you spread His Kingdom.
Inspiring to read your profile, Ann. Since I have known you for many years, yourstory becomes all the more alive for me. May you continue to inspire many more to be zealous missionaries.
Thank you Ann for your inspiring and moving journey .
Ann, thank you for your life’s walk in faith and mission, thus far!
This was a very moving story, with many accomplishments in the midst of hardships. Thank you.